On Fear of the Monster and Fanaticism
Some spontaneous philosophy.
I was supposed to write an analytical article but this had to get out of the way because I was thinking about it. The analytical article is coming!
I am writing this with love. Yes, the times are strange, and it seems like we are living through an attempt at something dark and horrible.
Yes, the maniacs and their minions and henchmen are waging a technologically enhanced war against all natural life on Earth. Yes, it’s true. And yet the only way to beat them is to insist on love and courage and to order the fear to go away.
That, I believe, is the entire point. Insisting on love and courage is both practical and ultimately pleasant because we cannot beat the “bad guys” at their own game of fear. Fear is their kingdom, and we need to play a different game.
So, love and courage. Not in a fancy, theoretical, airy-fairy sense of it but for real. In a way that comes from being born into this world, having no idea what it’s about, being rejected by a million people including by those close to you, forgetting who you are, succumbing to self-betrayal, feeling the unbearable pain of it, pedaling toward healing for your dear life, screaming, not knowing why it has to hurt so much, and slowly, slowly, figuring out that love is what always has been the entire point, along with creativity and joy. And courage, as the sword and the chariot that carry love through fire and through darkness. Love and courage, the message from the spirit, never an abstraction or a set of talking points but a choice that we insist upon because we know that we are born with the right to insist upon it. And that is how our spark creates this world.
And joy? What do I mean by joy? Not the thing where you are “optimistic” but the tears start pouring out at the slightest stimulant. Not the tortured version of being okay with pain because it’s all there is but at least you deserve praise for having learned to live with it. I mean actual real joy that comes with a feeling of being in harmony with the world, protected and invincible. The kind our culture says is crazy and we shouldn’t have. The joy of being yourself, your favorite version of yourself, accepted and loved by those you want because you are you, like a small child of very happy and even-headed parents, or like a pet who gets his belly rubbed with fondness all the time but still has the genitals intact. The kind where you have been accepted into this world with dignity, for who you were born to be, and no one tells you that yeah, you deserve to be happy “but not the way you want.” The kind where your life is shaped by your creative feeling, and not by the yoke of the demands of broken people.
This is the kind I want for myself.
A disclaimer: I have surely done my share of exceptionally foolish things (not a fun admission but facts are facts, and since I am still alive, I may do more of them—although I really try to make the wisest choices). So at this moment, when I feel particularly irritated by what feels to me like other people’s lack of courage, or ridiculous and destructive foolishness, I have to remind myself that this is what we all do on the way to figuring things out, and patience is a necessary virtue.
In that light, I want to make a clear case against fear and fanaticism, especially in the people “on my side.”
I think we all occasionally feel like this: “I have looked into it, and I’ve discovered a monster, so how dare you not focus on this thing that hurts so much in me? How dare you? How dare you be so complacent about the monster?”
Now, sometimes the feeling may be entirely legitimate. The monster may be scary, and it may be in everyone’s best interest to get their shit together. But for all practical purposes, fear still doesn’t help.
The dance of fighting the monster without being scared is not an easy dance by any stretch of imagination. It’s a difficult dance that requires life-long focus and rebalancing yourself again and again. So I am saying it with hope to be heard and without judgement. The reactive behavior, to my senses, comes from unhealed trauma, not from the lack of intelligence or good intention. But I also believe that anyone who aspires to show the way to others has the obligation to recognize it when they act on fear and fight the beast with tooth and claw. And it is particularly important when fighting a good fight.
How does fanaticism come to exist? I believe that it’s a protective mechanism that shows up in reaction to our fear of horrible things that may happen to us due to no fault of our own but due other people’s poor choices. It’s a tower in one’s head that describes the world in a way that minimizes the sense of helplessness. It’s a reaction to trauma of real or anticipated unearned pain, combined with the lack of desire to investigate the trauma and tackle it head on—or maybe the lack of understanding of how to do it this very second. And perhaps it’s a necessary phase of our emotional growth of every human being…
With all that said, I feel a very strong desire make a case against fear because the times are cray-cray, and we need all hands on deck—and fear is impractical. Fear impacts our bodies, whipping out the hormones that prevent us from thinking straight. If we allow that to happen to us for too long, then instead of acting in an even-headed manner, including in protective ways, we’ll act like fools and regret it later.
(For example, I am not a fan of the popular medical product of the day. Twitter editorials say there isn’t and cannot be any shedding, and perhaps there isn’t, except in, say, Pfizer clinical trial documents— see 8.3.5—and a bunch of other papers, like here and here. But if there is, I am not going to drive myself insane thinking about it all day but instead, do what I think is right, pray for clarity and protection, take a million vitamins, and live my life.)
We are in this mysterious dance with other people, and we are supposed to help each other heal, and it really is a mystery how it works. So I believe that we have an obligation to relax and have faith in joy.
A personal story:
Ever since I remember myself, I’ve pondered the questions of courage and self-betrayal. Having grown up on films and books about World War II and the Nazi torturing brave children (children like me) who none the less stood their ground and didn’t tell their guerrilla secrets, I’ve always been philosophically inclined. I spent too much time thinking about what I would do if the Nazis tortured me. Cruelty, the fact that it exists, has always bothered me tremendously. I found it unnecessary.
And I grieved the fact that for some reason, psychopaths have the power to hurt people. Speaking of psychopaths, it so happens that I have once stared into the absolutely cold eyes of a criminal. That was a long ago, when I was attacked by a sex trafficker in Southern China, and I was sitting in the back of a truck right across from him, after being beaten, and his eyes had zero warmth and zero compassion. Just cold. I will never forget that stare, and I thank the powerful kindness of the universe from my heart for getting me out of there in one piece. On its face, the situation was rather hopeless! So I truly was saved by the universe, and that is no small deal.
Then of course, I got in that abusive relationship, which was no fun. Then I spent years getting over it and healing, and then I forgot.
But I thought about psychopaths. And I thought about how one could make them “understand.” My theory was that if a psychopath were subjected to the kind of pain that he subjected others to, he would understand how wrong it was. And then somebody wise told me, “But if one were to do that to a psychopath, even in response, he will himself become a psychopath.” I didn’t understand but after some years it dawned on me that it is true. If a “good guy” starts using bad tools for a “good cause,” the ghost of cruelty, like a parasite, will jump from the original bad guy onto the former good guy, and will continue living with the new host, creating suffering in the world.
And so the only way to win is to play a different game. Which starts with dealing with own trauma in earnest and pedaling toward love and courage. The result is pleasant…
I want to end with a very short song about the soul.
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